The familiar story
You have just experienced Boardroom Presentation failure! You painstakingly prepared your update and despite knowing your stuff feel the nerves increase as the meeting date comes closer.
The day of reckoning is creeping up upon you when you are to sit amongst experienced and confident peers to present to the CEO and others on the dreaded “Board”.
Your nerves start to increase weeks before but then reach a crescendo as the day draws closer. The boardroom meeting day is here, and the meeting room feels like a gladiatorial arena except you feel you are arriving without a weapon nor a shield.
Instead your mind is racing, the heart also racing. You find yourself replacing niceties and small talk with random babbling. Others can sense you are anxious, and you try to say you will be fine but know that you are up against a powerful audience.
The meeting begins and that creeping death feeling starts to intensify for you. You observe some appearing confident whilst others crumble as the moment you have been dreading your presentation update is coming closer.
As you are introduced, you feel the heat on your face and as you are about to share you update… the mind goes blank!
The mouth is dry and the heart pounds and races.
Al you can see are lots of pairs of eyes staring up at you. The faces are stern and there is a blank expression on many faces possibly a few with squinting eyes, some with a frown of confusion of frustration…In the mist of panic you start to stumble and mumble through second guessing the impact you are making.
The feelings of judgement intensify and start to overwhelm you. You manage to somehow conclude but the fake thanks for that comment by the chair marks the start of the dreaded Q&A begins. Unable to assert your presence you retreat to agreeing to follow up with lots of the requests despite knowing you could have answered most if not all questions.
The rest of the meeting is a haze, as your red face and raised heart rate starts to normalise. The boardroom panic and anxiety is a feeling you NEVER want to experience again. As you walk out of the meeting room you find yourself replaying the moments again and again…. adding meaning to the experience and as the days pass…the pain gives way to a new self-identity, a reminder and marker of internal failure.
You are at a point of decision.
You know you have worked hard; you are capable, and you are doing yourself an injustice. Either you change and do something about this problem or risk another decimation at the hands of presentation failure.
It may well feel like a doomsday scenario but for many professionals the above account is a stark reality that often remains unchecked. And one that can fast become something that at best freezes progress but has the potential destroy careers.
The good news is that despite what can appear like the impossible or at best a significant challenge there are approaches you can upskill in. So you do not just survive such battles but learn to thrive and become a masterful communicator in all settings.
Before we start to share ‘the speaking journey’ it is important to understand why such experiences create such a significant impact on our wellbeing and self-worth.
Why is it that a few minutes in front of an audience can destroy our self confidence and self-image to such an extreme.
Part of the answer can be found in the human brain which is built to recall negative events more intensively. Lessons and meaning from stressful events form a defence from repeating dangerous actions however in the modern world of presentations this means avoidance of growth leading to a greater likelihood of repeated and long-term failure.
Further studies show that it requires at least 5 positive experiences to make up for 1 negative interaction. This means the mental fall-out from a difficult presentation is likely to become your default and manifest as a self-belief.
Here we want to draw upon the first stages of our Executive Coaching process designed for leaders having to deliver with impact in the boardroom post a presenting disaster.
Planning begins with the Content, the Delivery and YOU
Many of us will rehearse what we intend to say, far less will rehearse ‘how’ we will say it. And the majority will ‘never’ rehearse ‘how we feel’ when we say it.
One of the numerous paradigm shifting secrets we share with our elite level clients is that the amount of practice ahead of your next presentation must include all THREE components.
Therefore, you must learn the alter your personal state ahead of any talk. By state we are referring to the way we feel, think and speak ahead of any talk, popularly termed by our coaches the ‘Presenting State’. It is a state where you are louder, more coherent, more self-confident and clearer version of yourself. And it is built up step by step through proven approaches.
One such approach is to create a more positive mindset for yourself ahead of the talk. An important method to do this is positively connect to others ahead of your presentation. There are lots of ways you can do this for example engage in lots of small talk on your way to the presenting venue. Speak to the security guard, the driver, the reception staff. At the meeting room speaker with colleagues or staff – in the main get yourself ‘warmed up’
This will not only shift your emotion it will make you feel more warmed up, more presentation ready! When you start to speak you will find you are more at ease, more accustomed to opening and leading a conversation. Your nerves will have subsided – you are now in the presenting state.
The Speaking Journey
Ofcourse there are many more methods that we train our senior executives to break through the presenting ceiling.
What is important to remember is that it is through learning the right approached with consistent guided practice that we start to experience the real changes.
Building professional presentation habits requires patience, insight and support and this means making rituals and techniques habitual. And it is through the learning , practice and feedback, that you make a previous barrier into a the most powerful competitive edge.